Thursday, February 26, 2009
Group wants treatment center
By SUE WATSON
About 30 concerned citizens asked the Marshall County Board of Supervisors February 17 to keep $2.1 million in state bond money slotted for construction of an alcohol and drug treatment facility in the county.
Pastor Edward C. Moses of Asbury United Methodist Church, Pastor Willie Jeffries with Strawberry MB Church and Calvin James were spokespersons for the group.
The board voted 4-1 at the February 2 meeting to seek to use the money in the state bond bill for the treatment facility toward surfacing the North Holly Springs Bypass Road, which has not been completed due to lack of state funds.
Paving of the road was not possible with money that had been appropriated to build the bypass, due to escalating fuel and construction materials costs that hit the ceiling after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast in August 2005.
In effect, the dollars to build the bypass did not stretch far enough after construction costs escalated several million dollars above state engineers’ estimates for the cost of the project.
Moses told supervisors the group knows how hard it is to get funding for projects.
“We are all out there together trying to solve common issues,” he continued. “We are caregivers. Our voices are not voices of confusion or agitation.”
Moses said the projects, the treatment facility and the bypass road, are “powerful symbols for the community.”
“The North Holly Springs Bypass raised the visibility of our hopes for something new for our county,” he said. “But the (A & D) center raises our hope in the role of caregivers, too. Monies are at stake and we’re trying to get the money.
“To redirect the $2.1 million (to the bypass road) makes it look like hope, unborn, has died.”
Supervisors Ronnie Joe Bennett and Eddie Dixon assured the citizens group that the board members who voted to redirect the money to the road completion were interested in a treatment facility as well.
“No doubt, we are all for the crisis center. We all know how great it is,” Bennett said. “What was presented to us was that we do something with this bond money (for the crisis center) or we would lose it. That’s why the vote went the way it did, based on what the representatives and senator said.”
(Rep. Kelvin Buck and consultant Gary Anderson had expressed concern that if the money was not used to build the crisis center soon, other eyes at the state Legislature could be looking to use the bonding authority for the $2.1 million for their own projects.)
Jeffries said the citizens do not believe the county is “going to lose it.”
“With $2.2 million we could build and staff it until the money comes in,” he said. “It makes you look like you care more for brick and mortar than you do for the citizens. If we can save one person (from addiction) it adds to the productivity of our county.”
Supervisor Willie Flemon was concerned about Jeffries’ comment.
“Why didn’t the representative (Kelvin Buck) meet with you?” he asked. “Why weren’t our representatives brought before your group or why did they not bring you to our board meeting?”
“Regardless, the fact is the money is going toward the road, not for the treatment center,” Jeffries answered.
Moses said he has a relative who is a licensed professional in the treatment business who could run the facility as a business.
Dixon offered that he had talked with officials with the state department of mental health.
“They said they were cut $13 million and they said no way (to get funds to operate a facility),” he said. “They (mental health) don't have the money to staff what facilities they do have. And the representative (Kelvin Buck) said if we do not do something, the money (for the center) will be deauthorized.”
W.A. McMillan said he had talked with Rep. Buck February 16, and the Legislature has money for the road and the money for the treatment center would not be needed for the road.
“But we will lose it if they try to redirect it to the road,” he said. “Our hope is you will rescind any action taken that would retard the progress of the treatment center. It is needed. It makes me sick the board would not support it.”
Bennett and Dixon said the board would need to get the representatives and senator and consultant Gary Anderson back to discuss the matter.
Supervisor George Zinn III called the worry that the money for the center would be diverted by the state to other uses was a “scare tactic.”
“I am not getting scared that it will be de-authorized,” he said. “That idea of losing the money has been stated from day one.”
“We thought we were taking steps not to lose the money,” said Dixon.
Calvin Jones put a personal face on the issue.
“Each one of us here knows someone who is on drugs,” he said.
The center is needed to support both the addict in recovery and the friends and family of the addict, he said.
Jones cited a relative who had been on alcohol and drugs but was treated and restored to be a productive citizen. He also noted statistics that say about 90 percent of crime is motivated by a desire of the addict to get drugs.
Bennett reminded the group that the board supported the crisis center from the beginning when it requested the bond authorization, up until the board was advised it was going to lose the money set aside for the center.
Zinn proffered a motion to support redirecting the $2.1 million back for use to build an alcohol and drug treatment facility, but the motion failed for lack of a second.
In other business, the board:
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